Inspired by Maria
This morning, I gave a presentation to 700 women entrepreneurs at Oklahoma State’s Spears School of Business’ “Women Inspire” conference. It was a thrill. But perhaps the highlight of the experience was listening to the speaker before me. Her name was Maria de Lourdes “Lulu” Sobrino and she is the founder of Lulu’s Dessert. Born and raised in Mexico City, her first U.S. business, a travel agency, shut down due to economic conditions, so she began to explore new ideas.
As a Mexican American she was frustrated that she was unable to enjoy the gelatin deserts of her homeland in the states and so created the idea of a ready-to-eat gelatin desert for the U.S. market. She recognized a need, filled it and revolutionized the food industry, creating the first ever ready-to-eat gelatin category, based on her mother’s recipe. This was well before Jell-O made the category mainstream. Now she sells through more than 2300 Wal-Mart stores and is among the top 500 Hispanic businesses in the United States. And, she did all of this having no family in the United States, no network and very little savings. Her husband didn’t even support the idea.
I had the chance to talk with Maria the night before our respective presentations and I asked her whether she thought it was more or less difficult to start a business in the United States today. I was happy to hear her say what I believe – that the U.S. remains the entrepreneurial center of gravity. There is so much negative PR surrounding our country these days it is easy to get down on it, but the reality is that the same American Dream my non-US-born parents drilled into my head is still very much alive in this country.
Whether you are an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur working within a company, it seems that the opportunities are endless for those with vision, passion and the work ethic to succeed. With the economy turning, there is really little excuse not to pursue an idea that is your own – whether you are on the inside of a company or on the outside starting your own business. And most of us have fewer roadblocks and challenges than Maria Sobrino did.
So, a public thank you to Maria de Lourdes “Lulu” Sobrino for reminding me that my employees, my friends, my family and my daughter are living in a country where anything is still possible. I may not love gelatin deserts (no offense) but your story, now that is delicious.